Afghan shooter 'remembers little'

2012-03-20 07:30

Kansas - The Army staff sergeant accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in a night-time shooting rampage has a sketchy memory of the night of the massacre, his lawyer said on Monday after meeting his client for the first time.

Lawyer John Henry Browne said Robert Bales remembers some details from before and after the killings, but very little or nothing of the time the military believes he went on a shooting spree through two Afghan villages.

"He has some memory of some things that happened that night. He has some memories of before the incident and he has some memories of after the incident. In between, very little," Browne told The Associated Press by telephone from the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, where Bales is being held.

Pressed on whether Bales can remember anything about the shooting, Browne said, "No," but added: "I haven't gotten that far with him yet."

In an earlier interview with CBS television, Browne said unequivocally that Bales can't remember the shootings.

No charges yet

Meanwhile, records show Bales owes $1.5m from an arbitration ruling nearly a decade ago that found him guilty of securities fraud.

Bales, 38, has not been charged yet in the March 11 shootings, though charges could come this week. The killings sparked protests in Afghanistan, endangered US-Afghan relations and threatened to upend American policy over the decade-old war.

Earlier on Monday, Browne met with his client behind bars for the first time to begin building a defence and said the soldier gave a powerfully moving account of what it is like to be on the ground in Afghanistan.

Browne said he and Bales, who is being held in an isolated cell at the military prison, met for more than three hours at Fort Leavenworth.

"What's going on on the ground in Afghanistan, you read about it. I read about it. But it's totally different when you hear about it from somebody who's been there," Browne told the AP. "It's just really emotional."

Browne, a Seattle attorney who defended serial killer Ted Bundy and a thief known as the "Barefoot Bandit", has said he has handled three or four military cases. The defence team includes a military defence lawyer, Major Thomas Hurley. The lawyers have said they plan to meet with Bales this week.

Setting victims on fire

At their meeting, Browne said Bales clarified a story, provided initially by the soldier's family, about the timing of a roadside bomb that blew off the leg of one of Bales' friends. It was two days before the shooting, not one, and Bales didn't see the explosion, just the aftermath, Browne said.

The details of the blast could not be immediately confirmed.

Military officials have said that Bales, after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, crept away to two villages overnight, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the dead were children and 11 belonged to one family.

Bales arrived at Fort Leavenworth last Friday and was being held in the same prison as other prominent defendants. Pfc Bradley Manning, who is charged with leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website, has been held there on occasion as he awaits trial.

Bales is "already being integrated into the normal pre-trial confinement routine", prison spokesperson Rebecca Steed said.

The routine includes recreation, meals and cleaning the area where he is living. Steed said once his meetings with his attorneys are complete later in the week, Bales will resume the normal integration process.

Wife 'profoundly sad'

Bales' wife, Karilyn, offered her condolences to the victims' families and said on Monday she wants to know what happened. She said her family and her in-laws are profoundly sad, and that what they've read and seen in news reports is "completely out of character of the man I know and admire".

"My family including my and Bob's extended families are all profoundly sad. We extend our condolences to all the people of the Panjawai District, our hearts go out to all of them, especially to the parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents of the children who perished," Karilyn Bales said in a statement.

Court records and interviews show Bales had commendations for good conduct after four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He enlisted in the military after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks.

He also faced a number of problems in recent years: a Florida investment job went sour, his Seattle-area home was condemned as he struggled to make payments on another, and he failed to get a recent promotion. He also still faces a $1.5m securities fraud judgment from 2003.

The National Association of Securities Dealers found that Bales, another man and his company "engaged in fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, unauthorised trading and unsuitable investments".

Records show Gary Liebschner of Columbus, Ohio, filed the complaint in 2000, when Bales was a stockbroker.

WCPO-TV in Ohio quoted Liebschner's wife as saying her husband became ill so they asked Bales to sell stock to pay medical bills, but never received the proceeds.

Legal troubles

An arbitration panel found Bales, Michael Patterson and Michael Patterson Inc individually and jointly liable for $637 000 in compensatory damages, $637 000 in punitive damages, $216 500 in attorneys' fees and several thousand dollars in other fees.

Punitive damages were allowed because the panel found Bales' conduct "fraudulent and malicious".

Bales did not file a "statement of answer", get an attorney or appear at an Ohio hearing, records show.

About a year and a half after the complaint was filed, Bales enlisted - just two months after September 11.

His legal troubles included charges that he assaulted a girlfriend and, in a hit-and-run accident, ran bleeding in military clothes into the woods, according to court records. He told police he fell asleep at the wheel and paid a fine to get the charges dismissed.

In March 1998, Bales was given a $65 citation for possessing alcohol at Daytona Beach, Florida. He did not pay the fine nor did he defend himself in court. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but it later expired.


If the case goes to court, the trial will be held in the US, said a legal expert with the US military familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case.

That expert said charges were still being decided and that the location for any trial had not yet been determined. If the suspect is brought to trial, it is possible that Afghan witnesses and victims would be flown to the US to participate, he said.

After their investigation, military attorneys could draft charges and present them to a commander, who then makes a judgment on whether there is probable cause to believe that an offense was committed and that the accused committed it.

That commander then submits the charges to a convening authority, who typically is the commander of the brigade to which the accused is assigned but could be of higher rank.

  • elewies - 2012-03-20 07:48

    How very convenient...

      Fred - 2012-03-23 07:55

      Patrick, you're a bellwether for wrong and racist thinking. You're on record for saying, "The world would be a better place if Jews were removed from all walks of life". Disgusting.

  • Trevor - 2012-03-20 07:51

    This all reads out of a CIA Movie where the politicians/cia are seeking a scape goat to further their agenda. This all sounds to well layed out, even the Afgan President has said, they KNOW it was not the work of just one man, but the Americans won't budge, they have their fall man and they going to manipulate CNN once again to get the story across.

      MarkR61 - 2012-03-20 08:00

      Ala Lee Harvey Oswald??? Methinks so too.

      joe.steyn - 2012-03-20 10:34

      Possibly MK Ultra

      Fred - 2012-03-24 13:17

      YOU"RE living in an imaginary CIA movie, this much is clear.

  • zaatheist - 2012-03-20 08:07

    I am sure the brain addled little twerp will claim that.

  • Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-20 08:19

    The USA ,nor any other Nato country, should never have gone into Afghanistan, but the dispicable killing of these 16 Afghanistans, seems the work of a deranged soldier. But to come with all conspiracies, and saying they are ,again, going to manipulate CNN, is just a bit silly, actually it is childish !! The West can't pack its bags soon enough in Afghanistan, there are better ways to protect themselves from scum that is hiding there !!

  • Traygon - 2012-03-20 08:25

    This is so fake, US getting really sloppy in their cover ups. Nobody would have volunteered to be the scapegoat if the US Army would have handed them over to the villagers affected by this rampage. The witnesses are all in Afghanistan, and yet he is to be tried in the US - Is the US going to fly the witnesses over to give evidence? The eye witnesses all say there were more than one. What a despicable farce...

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-03-20 12:21

      Scape goat for what? What would the objective be for US authorising the soldier to do this considering the damage to relations? Its a soldier that went awol , happened in every war , happens in every country and will happen in the future .

      Fred - 2012-03-24 13:21

      You're making things up to suit your personal beliefs. Plus Afghanistan doesn't have a recognized and reliable legal system. Yet you want him tried there. Doesn't make sense. There will be a rigorous trial in the US based on sound legal principles.

  • Ricky Naidoo - 2012-03-20 08:31

    He must have been high on some drug. Idiot

      Paul - 2012-03-20 13:48

      Just the average american.

      Fred - 2012-03-23 15:48

      Paul, you're a bigot and a fool.

  • Tom - 2012-03-20 08:47

    When speaking of the attack, some witnesses say ''they'' which implies more than one shooter and some witnesses say shooting took place at the same time but from 2 different directions. Is

  • Nicholas - 2012-03-20 08:53

    If his lawyer says he doesn't remember anything then I don't believe it. The next step will be an "insanity" plea.

  • wealth - 2012-03-20 08:55


  • Estelle - 2012-03-20 09:09

    He is a criminal and a psychopath. If someone mowed down 9 children in a shopping centre in American, he would get the death penalty or life imprisonment. This man deserves the same condemnation!

      Fred - 2012-03-24 13:21

      You're jumping to conclusions

  • herman.brummer - 2012-03-20 09:40

    So, he was drunk and he did not know what he was doing... Cut his head off.

  • Pierre - 2012-03-20 09:53

    Ah the good old amnesia trick. Well it worked well for the 5 million odd Apartheid supporters (including those that voted for Hernus Kriel).

      Tom - 2012-03-20 14:07

      Good point!

      Dries - 2012-03-20 14:17

      easy to shoot ur mouth off pussy... sitting in the UK... come over here and say it our face

      Pierre - 2012-03-22 12:27

      Who's sitting in the UK? I am HERE mate and I did say it to your face. (Did the flag mislead you? It is not a British flag but one used by the Voortrekkers. You right-wingers really seem to know nothing.)

      Fred - 2012-03-23 07:56

      Pierre, your comments on this website are among the most distorted and wrong. They're hardly anything to be proud of. Because of their inaccuracy, they're truly powerless. You;re on the lunatic fringe of thinkers, weak, irrelevant.

  • Walter Jooste - 2012-03-20 09:58

    I love how they look at every little reason why he would do this , saying he was in debt , traumatized by an explosion as if anything can be an excuse for killing children ? You know society is going downhill when the media softens such an act. It is what it is , the man killed children. Afganisthan is pregnant because america didnt pull out when he f%”¤d her

  • Evon - 2012-03-20 11:15

    He is going to write a book sell the rights and with all the money pay all his debt? Flame of "Fame"

  • Mohsin - 2012-03-20 13:15


      Fred - 2012-03-23 15:49


  • Tom - 2012-03-20 14:14

    Such killings must never be justified! But is it not strange or rather interesting that when a NATO soldier goes on a rampage after witnessing his comrade's leg blown off that there is so much of media sympathy but when the other side does the same after witnessing his family being killed in an aerial bombardment, there isnt the same sympathy...... Maybe some lives are worth more than others?

      MrAversion - 2012-03-20 15:40

      No one in the Western media has even bothered to find out the names of the victims. Al Jazeera has done so and here they are: It is absolutely the case that when a US soldier runs amok and mass-murders children, then we are all expected to understand the context and sympathize with his personal difficulties, but when a Palestinian suicide bomber mass-murders children then no one is allowed to attempt to understand the context or his personal difficulties.

      Fred - 2012-03-24 13:23

      Exactly which incident are you talking about Tom? This is a generalization based on your personal beliefs.

      Fred - 2012-03-24 13:26

      Evan, I don't understand what you mean by "no-one is allowed to attempt to understand the context of his personal difficulties". No-one is stopping you or anyone from reading up on this. It is the Information Age after all. You don't need permission. It is normal that communities focus on the motivations and circumstances of their own members. This happens everywhere, including in Palestine.

  • malcolm - 2012-03-20 14:40

    Plenty of opium in Afghanistan. The DEA have been burning it ever since USA attacked Afghanistan. Perhaps a few of these yanks have a secret stash of their own. US soldiers are known for spending most of their time stoned. Perhaps a few of them got stoned and went on the rampage. Perhaps it is a cover up. Either way, this incident just gave birth to about ten thousand more Taliban. Typical USA, going to war to get rid of the Taliban, and then actually assisting in making more Taliban enemies in the process through sloppy, undisciplined, offensive behaviour.

      MrAversion - 2012-03-20 15:37

      The last thing someone high on opium would be doing is running around shooting people. Opium is a narcotic. It makes you sleep, like morphine (which is derived from opium) and heroin (which is derived from morphine). These drugs are highly unlikely to stimulate a mass-killing spree.

      Fred - 2012-03-23 15:50

      The usual silly, uniformed and prejudiced comment from you Malcolm.

  • michelle.e.magson - 2012-03-23 08:05

    cover up schmother up ... he was cooked. war will do that to ya. also, did no one notice he has a conviction for securities fraud, thus showing he is already wired wrong?

      Fred - 2012-03-24 13:29

      We create our own wiring with the choices we make, the beliefs we hold, the thoughts and feelings we choose to have, the desires and images we hold, and the expectations and attitudes we choose to have. Out of these, neuronal routing is most highly impacted by the choices we make.

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